Lord, and judge your own cause. Remember your reproaches to those who
are filled with foolishness all through the day. Listen to our
prayers, for foxes have arisen seeking to destroy the vineyard whose
winepress you alone have trod. When you were about to ascend to your
Father, you committed the care, rule, and administration of the
vineyard, an image of the triumphant church, to Peter, as the head
and your vicar and his successors. The wild boar from the forest
seeks to destroy it and every wild beast feeds upon it.
Peter, and fulfill this pastoral office divinely entrusted to you as
mentioned above. Give heed to the cause of the holy Roman Church,
mother of all churches and teacher of the faith, whom you by the
order of God, have consecrated by your blood. Against the Roman
Church, you warned, lying teachers are rising, introducing ruinous
sects, and drawing upon themselves speedy doom. Their tongues are
fire, a restless evil, full of deadly poison. They have bitter zeal,
contention in their hearts, and boast and lie against the truth.
you also, Paul, to arise. It was you that enlightened and illuminated
the Church by your doctrine and by a martyrdom like Peter's. For now
a new Porphyry rises who, as the old once wrongfully assailed the
holy apostles, now assails the holy pontiffs, our predecessors.
them, in violation of your teaching, instead of imploring them, he is
not ashamed to assail them, to tear at them, and when he despairs of
his cause, to stoop to insults. He is like the heretics "whose
last defense," as Jerome says, "is to start spewing out a
serpent's venom with their tongue when they see that their causes are
about to be condemned, and spring to insults when they see they are
vanquished." For although you have said that there must be
heresies to test the faithful, still they must be destroyed at their
very birth by your intercession and help, so they do not grow or wax
strong like your wolves. Finally, let the whole church of the saints
and the rest of the universal church arise. Some, putting aside her
true interpretation of Sacred Scripture, are blinded in mind by the
father of lies. Wise in their own eyes, according to the ancient
practice of heretics, they interpret these same Scriptures otherwise
than the Holy Spirit demands, inspired only by their own sense of
ambition, and for the sake of popular acclaim, as the Apostle
declares. In fact, they twist and adulterate the Scriptures. As a
result, according to Jerome, "It is no longer the Gospel of
Christ, but a man's, or what is worse, the devil's."
this holy Church of God, I say, arise, and with the blessed apostles
intercede with almighty God to purge the errors of His sheep, to
banish all heresies from the lands of the faithful, and be pleased to
maintain the peace and unity of His holy Church.
For we can
scarcely express, from distress and grief of mind, what has reached
our ears for some time by the report of reliable men and general
rumor; alas, we have even seen with our eyes and read the many
diverse errors. Some of these have already been condemned by councils
and the constitutions of our predecessors, and expressly contain even
the heresy of the Greeks and Bohemians. Other errors are either
heretical, false, scandalous, or offensive to pious ears, as
seductive of simple minds, originating with false exponents of the
faith who in their proud curiosity yearn for the world's glory, and
contrary to the Apostle's teaching, wish to be wiser than they should
be. Their talkativeness, unsupported by the authority of the
Scriptures, as Jerome says, would not win credence unless they
appeared to support their perverse doctrine even with divine
testimonies however badly interpreted. From their sight fear of God
has now passed.
errors have, at the suggestion of the human race, been revived and
recently propagated among the more frivolous and the illustrious
German nation. We grieve the more that this happened there because we
and our predecessors have always held this nation in the bosom of our
affection. For after the empire had been transferred by the Roman
Church from the Greeks to these same Germans, our predecessors and we
always took the Church's advocates and defenders from among them.
Indeed it is certain that these Germans, truly germane to the
Catholic faith, have always been the bitterest opponents of heresies,
as witnessed by those commendable constitutions of the German
emperors in behalf of the Church's independence, freedom, and the
expulsion and extermination of all heretics from Germany. Those
constitutions formerly issued, and then confirmed by our
predecessors, were issued under the greatest penalties even of loss
of lands and dominions against anyone sheltering or not expelling
them. If they were observed today both we and they would obviously be
free of this disturbance. Witness to this is the condemnation and
punishment in the Council of Constance of the infidelity of the
Hussites and Wyclifites as well as Jerome of Prague. Witness to this
is the blood of Germans shed so often in wars against the Bohemians.
A final witness is the refutation, rejection, and condemnation no
less learned than true and holy of the above errors, or many of them,
by the universities of Cologne and Louvain, most devoted and
religious cultivators of the Lord's field. We could allege many other
facts too, which we have decided to omit, lest we appear to be
composing a history.
of our pastoral office committed to us by the divine favor we can
under no circumstances tolerate or overlook any longer the pernicious
poison of the above errors without disgrace to the Christian religion
and injury to orthodox faith. Some of these errors we have decided to
include in the present document; their substance is as follows:
1. It is a
heretical opinion, but a common one, that the sacraments of the New
Law give pardoning grace to those who do not set up an obstacle.
2. To deny
that in a child after baptism sin remains is to treat with contempt
both Paul and Christ.
inflammable sources of sin, even if there be no actual sin, delay a
soul departing from the body from entrance into heaven.
4. To one
on the point of death imperfect charity necessarily brings with it
great fear, which in itself alone is enough to produce the punishment
of purgatory, and impedes entrance into the kingdom.
there are three parts to penance: contrition, confession, and
satisfaction, has no foundation in Sacred Scripture nor in the
ancient sacred Christian doctors.
Contrition, which is acquired through discussion, collection, and
detestation of sins, by which one reflects upon his years in the
bitterness of his soul, by pondering over the gravity of sins, their
number, their baseness, the loss of eternal beatitude, and the
acquisition of eternal damnation, this contrition makes him a
hypocrite, indeed more a sinner.
7. It is a
most truthful proverb and the doctrine concerning the contritions
given thus far is the more remarkable: "Not to do so in the
future is the highest penance; the best penance, a new life."
8. By no
means may you presume to confess venial sins, nor even all mortal
sins, because it is impossible that you know all mortal sins. Hence
in the primitive Church only manifest mortal sins were confessed.
9. As long
as we wish to confess all sins without exception, we are doing
nothing else than to wish to leave nothing to God's mercy for pardon.
are not forgiven to anyone, unless when the priest forgives them he
believes they are forgiven; on the contrary the sin would remain
unless he believed it was forgiven; for indeed the remission of sin
and the granting of grace does not suffice, but it is necessary also
to believe that there has been forgiveness.
11. By no
means can you have reassurance of being absolved because of your
contrition, but because of the word of Christ: "Whatsoever you
shall loose, etc." Hence, I say, trust confidently, if you have
obtained the absolution of the priest, and firmly believe yourself to
have been absolved, and you will truly be absolved, whatever there
may be of contrition.
through an impossibility he who confessed was not contrite, or the
priest did not absolve seriously, but in a jocose manner, if
nevertheless he believes that he has been absolved, he is most truly absolved.
13. In the
sacrament of penance and the remission of sin the pope or the bishop
does no more than the lowest priest; indeed, where there is no
priest, any Christian, even if a woman or child, may equally do as much.
14. No one
ought to answer a priest that he is contrite, nor should the priest inquire.
is the error of those who approach the sacrament of the Eucharist
relying on this, that they have confessed, that they are not
conscious of any mortal sin, that they have sent their prayers on
ahead and made preparations; all these eat and drink judgment to
themselves. But if they believe and trust that they will attain
grace, then this faith alone makes them pure and worthy.
seems to have been decided that the Church in common Council
established that the laity should communicate under both species; the
Bohemians who communicate under both species are not heretics, but schismatics.
treasures of the Church, from which the pope grants indulgences, are
not the merits of Christ and of the saints.
Indulgences are pious frauds of the faithful, and remissions of good
works; and they are among the number of those things which are
allowed, and not of the number of those which are advantageous.
Indulgences are of no avail to those who truly gain them, for the
remission of the penalty due to actual sin in the sight of divine justice.
are seduced who believe that indulgences are salutary and useful for
the fruit of the spirit.
Indulgences are necessary only for public crimes, and are properly
conceded only to the harsh and impatient.
six kinds of men indulgences are neither necessary nor useful;
namely, for the dead and those about to die, the infirm, those
legitimately hindered, and those who have not committed crimes, and
those who have committed crimes, but not public ones, and those who
devote themselves to better things.
Excommunications are only external penalties and they do not deprive
man of the common spiritual prayers of the Church.
Christians must be taught to cherish excommunications rather than to
Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, is not the vicar of Christ
over all the churches of the entire world, instituted by Christ
Himself in blessed Peter.
word of Christ to Peter: "Whatsoever you shall loose on
earth," etc., is extended merely to those things bound by Peter himself.
27. It is
certain that it is not in the power of the Church or the pope to
decide upon the articles of faith, and much less concerning the laws
for morals or for good works.
28. If the
pope with a great part of the Church thought so and so, he would not
err; still it is not a sin or heresy to think the contrary,
especially in a matter not necessary for salvation, until one
alternative is condemned and another approved by a general Council.
29. A way
has beeri made for us for weakening the authority of councils, and
for freely contradicting their actions, and judging their decrees,
and boldly confessing whatever seems true, whether it has been
approved or disapproved by any council whatsoever.
articles of John Hus, condemned in the Council of Constance, are most
Christian, wholly true and evangelical; these the universal Church
could not condemn.
every good work the just man sins.
32. A good
work done very well is a venial sin.
heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit.
34. To go
to war against the Turks is to resist God who punishes our iniquities
35. No one
is certain that he is not always sinning mortally, because of the
most hidden vice of pride.
will after sin is a matter of title only; and as long as one does
what is in him, one sins mortally.
Purgatory cannot be proved from Sacred Scripture which is in the canon.
souls in purgatory are not sure of their salvation, at least not all;
nor is it proved by any arguments or by the Scriptures that they are
beyond the state of meriting or of increasing in charity.
souls in purgatory sin without intermission, as long as they seek
rest and abhor punishment.
souls freed from purgatory by the suffrages of the living are less
happy than if they had made satisfactions by themselves.
Ecclesiastical prelates and secular princes would not act badly if
they destroyed all of the money bags of beggary.
No one of
sound mind is ignorant how destructive, pernicious, scandalous, and
seductive to pious and simple minds these various errors are, how
opposed they are to all charity and reverence for the holy Roman
Church who is the mother of all the faithful and teacher of the
faith; how destructive they are of the vigor of ecclesiastical
discipline, namely obedience. This virtue is the font and origin of
all virtues and without it anyone is readily convicted of being unfaithful.
we, in this above enumeration, important as it is, wish to proceed
with great care as is proper, and to cut off the advance of this
plague and cancerous disease so it will not spread any further in the
Lord's field as harmful thornbushes. We have therefore held a careful
inquiry, scrutiny, discussion, strict examination, and mature
deliberation with each of the brothers, the eminent cardinals of the
holy Roman Church, as well as the priors and ministers general of the
religious orders, besides many other professors and masters skilled
in sacred theology and in civil and canon law. We have found that
these errors or theses are not Catholic, as mentioned above, and are
not to be taught, as such; but rather are against the doctrine and
tradition of the Catholic Church, and against the true interpretation
of the sacred Scriptures received from the Church. Now Augustine
maintained that her authority had to be accepted so completely that
he stated he would not have believed the Gospel unless the authority
of the Catholic Church had vouched for it. For, according to these
errors, or any one or several of them, it clearly follows that the
Church which is guided by the Holy Spirit is in error and has always
erred. This is against what Christ at his ascension promised to his
disciples (as is read in the holy Gospel of Matthew): "I will be
with you to the consummation of the world"; it is against the
determinations of the holy Fathers, or the express ordinances and
canons of the councils and the supreme pontiffs. Failure to comply
with these canons, according to the testimony of Cyprian, will be the
fuel and cause of all heresy and schism.
advice and consent of these our venerable brothers, with mature
deliberation on each and every one of the above theses, and by the
authority of almighty God, the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and
our own authority, we condemn, reprobate, and reject completely each
of these theses or errors as either heretical, scandalous, false,
offensive to pious ears or seductive of simple minds, and against
Catholic truth. By listing them, we decree and declare that all the
faithful of both sexes must regard them as condemned, reprobated, and
rejected . . . We restrain all in the virtue of holy obedience and
under the penalty of an automatic major excommunication....
because the preceding errors and many others are contained in the
books or writings of Martin Luther, we likewise condemn, reprobate,
and reject completely the books and all the writings and sermons of
the said Martin, whether in Latin or any other language, containing
the said errors or any one of them; and we wish them to be regarded
as utterly condemned, reprobated, and rejected. We forbid each and
every one of the faithful of either sex, in virtue of holy obedience
and under the above penalties to be incurred automatically, to read,
assert, preach, praise, print, publish, or defend them. They will
incur these penalties if they presume to uphold them in any way,
personally or through another or others, directly or indirectly,
tacitly or explicitly, publicly or occultly, either in their own
homes or in other public or private places. Indeed immediately after
the publication of this letter these works, wherever they may be,
shall be sought out carefully by the ordinaries and others
[ecclesiastics and regulars], and under each and every one of the
above penalties shall be burned publicly and solemnly in the presence
of the clerics and people.
As far as
Martin himself is concerned, O good God, what have we overlooked or
not done? What fatherly charity have we omitted that we might call
him back from such errors? For after we had cited him, wishing to
deal more kindly with him, we urged him through various conferences
with our legate and through our personal letters to abandon these
errors. We have even offered him safe conduct and the money necessary
for the journey urging him to come without fear or any misgivings,
which perfect charity should cast out, and to talk not secretly but
openly and face to face after the example of our Savior and the
Apostle Paul. If he had done this, we are certain he would have
changed in heart, and he would have recognized his errors. He would
not have found all these errors in the Roman Curia which he attacks
so viciously, ascribing to it more than he should because of the
empty rumors of wicked men. We would have shown him clearer than the
light of day that the Roman pontiffs, our predecessors, whom he
injuriously attacks beyond all decency, never erred in their canons
or constitutions which he tries to assail. For, according to the
prophet, neither is healing oil nor the doctor lacking in Galaad.
always refused to listen and, despising the previous citation and
each and every one of the above overtures, disdained to come. To the
present day he has been contumacious. With a hardened spirit he has
continued under censure over a year. What is worse, adding evil to
evil, and on learning of the citation, he broke forth in a rash
appeal to a future council. This to be sure was contrary to the
constitution of Pius II and Julius II our predecessors that all
appealing in this way are to be punished with the penalties of
heretics. In vain does he implore the help of a council, since he
openly admits that he does not believe in a council.
we can, without any further citation or delay, proceed against him to
his condemnation and damnation as one whose faith is notoriously
suspect and in fact a true heretic with the full severity of each and
all of the above penalties and censures. Yet, with the advice of our
brothers, imitating the mercy of almighty God who does not wish the
death of a sinner but rather that he be converted and live, and
forgetting all the injuries inflicted on us and the Apostolic See, we
have decided to use all the compassion we are capable of. It is our
hope, so far as in us lies, that he will experience a change of heart
by taking the road of mildness we have proposed, return, and turn
away from his errors. We will receive him kindly as the prodigal son
returning to the embrace of the Church.
let Martin himself and all those adhering to him, and those who
shelter and support him, through the merciful heart of our God and
the sprinkling of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ by which and
through whom the redemption of the human race and the upbuilding of
holy mother Church was accomplished, know that from our heart we
exhort and beseech that he cease to disturb the peace, unity, and
truth of the Church for which the Savior prayed so earnestly to the
Father. Let him abstain from his pernicious errors that he may come
back to us. If they really will obey, and certify to us by legal
documents that they have obeyed, they will find in us the affection
of a father's love, the opening of the font of the effects of
paternal charity, and opening of the font of mercy and clemency.
however, on Martin that in the meantime he cease from all preaching
or the office of preacher.